You know, sometimes these weeks of Lifetime of Simpsons articles come out a little goofy, due to the whole structure of it. Pulling the next five episodes each week does have a tendency to create weird weeks, that close on odd notes. Like this week. Because yesterday’s insane and fun Lego episode seemed like a great place to end both the week, and the season. But that’s not the case. Because now we’re ending the week with a real bummer, just killing that buzz. And it’s not even the end of the Season! That’s next Monday! Oh well, let’s get through this.
The episode begins with Marge baking in the kitchen, while Bart awkwardly sits there and watching an episode of Itchy and Scratchy on his phone, being disruptive. It’s a pretty good bit though, a parody of Ratatouille that has Itchy causing Scratchy to serve his own body parts to some other cats, making them cannibals. But the episode really grosses out Marge, who can’t help but overhear it, and in her distraction she ends up ruining a cake she was baking.
Which is bad, because this cake was for an upcoming block party, and Marge really feels a lot of pressure to make something good. Unfortunately, she’s not going to have time to make another one, so she’s going to have to debase herself, and go buy a store-bought cake. Marge then surreptitiously goes to Swapper Jacks and buys a cake, deeply ashamed of herself the whole time. Hell, she even wears a disguise.
Marge then tries to drop the cake off at the block party without earning any attention to herself, and fails spectacularly. Because as she’s dropping off her cake she runs into a new neighbor, a British man named Booth Wilkes-John. He begins chatting with Marge, first about the cake, but then about the idea of her and Homer coming over for a weekly game night that he hopes to get going. And she really wants to go.
However, she knows that this is a terrible idea. Because Homer has a long and storied history of making an ass of himself during game nights. So at first Marge decides to just let this game night thing fade away, and forget it. But it really starts to bug her. Marge realizes that they have no couple friends, and that’s really starting to piss her off. Homer doesn’t seem to care about having couple friends, and actually likes his life the way it is, but Marge succeeds in convincing him that they should do this game night thing, and give it a shot.
In the coming week Marge continues to hound Homer, trying again and again to hammer in the fact that he needs to behave, and be a charming guest. And, when the night finally arrives, Homer and Marge walk over to Booth’s house, and find several other couples already there, and ready to get gaming. And Booth has gone all out. He and his wife has crafted a very elaborate murder mystery game, complete with costumes, backstories, period appropriate food, and even a folly artist. Seems like a good time!
Until Homer get his card, and immediately reads aloud that he’s the murderer, spoiling the entire evening. And Booth is furious. Really, everyone there is, but Booth in particular is pissed, and he and Homer start squabbling, which quickly devolves into an actual fight. Homer and Marge then awkwardly get kicked out of the party, and have to skulk home, while Marge is a barely contained ball of fury.
The next morning Homer comes downstairs, and finds Marge sitting at the kitchen table, still furious about the previous night. Homer tries to talk to her, and Marge just makes a simple statement. She’s realized that Homer makes it so that they’ll never have friends, and she’s decided to just accept a lonely and bitter life. Which Homer is fine with. But, Marge has one demand. She’s fine with her not having friends, but she’s worried that Lisa is following down the same path.
Marge is suddenly very worried that Lisa has no friends, and wants Homer’s help in fixing that. Which is an insane goal, but don’t worry, it’s just going to get more and more insane. Because their first idea is to throw a massive party, and invite every kid that Lisa knows. They prepare this huge party, complete with food, entertainment, lizards, bouncy castles, and gift bags. There’s only one problem. Only one obnoxious kid shows up. So they quickly abort the party, and pretend that it never happened.
But Marge won’t give up. She next goes to Ms. Hoover, to try and get some insight into why Lisa is so awkward, but Ms. Hoover couldn’t care less. Marge then seems to have no ideas left, and leaves the school, dejected.
However, there’s something brewing at the school. Because in gym class Lisa finds that they’re having to deal with square dancing, and will need to partner up. Lisa panics, figuring that it’ll be impossible to find a partner who will want to dance with her, and she’s kind of right. Because she ends up finding only one person who doesn’t get picked, and they have to be paired together. It turns out to be a girl named Tumi, who is in the other second grade class.
But, as they’re forced to awkwardly dance together, Lisa and Tumi actually hit it off. They have a nice time, and while dancing Tumi says that after school she’s going to a vintage vinyl store to listen to some old jazz records, and Lisa of course wants to be a part of that. And, just like that, Lisa starts to have a friend. Lisa and Tumi have a good time, and start spending a lot of time together, because they seem to have everything in common.
Which really starts to make Bart suspicious. At first he’s just confused by the idea of Lisa having a friend at all, but the more he learns about Tumi the more he thinks she’s too good to be true. So Bart starts following Tumi, seeing what she does when she’s not with Lisa, and he makes a startling discovery when she seems to meet someone at a Krusty Burger playroom. Bart manages to get some photos of what he saw, and he’s aghast.
So Bart heads home, and gives the photos to Lisa, warning her that they’re going to bum her out. Lisa cracks them open, and finds that the photos show Tumi getting bribed by Marge. Yeah, Marge is paying Tumi to be Lisa’s friend. Lisa is obviously furious, and she comes to yell at Marge. Marge obviously start to backtrack, trying to play this off as a good thing, but Lisa won’t listen, and storm out of the room, more mad at Marge than she’s ever been before.
Marge doesn’t know what to do about this, but Grandpa actually has some weird advice. He claims that he did the same thing with Homer, and that Lenny and Carl are still on his payroll, which is kind of hilarious. And this makes Marge realize that she’s done something weird and terrible, and goes to apologize to Lisa. But Lisa won’t accept the apology, and starts being mean to Marge, causing Marge to begin crying. Which instantly makes Lisa panic. She doesn’t want to make Marge cry, and the two end up striking up a conversation, coming to terms with what happened, and Marge promises to never do something like this again.
This is a very strange episode. And, it’s actually an example of a type of episode that I haven’t really seen that much lately. An episode where Marge is thoroughly unlikeable and does something horrible while claiming the moral high ground. Ah, how I haven’t missed these types of episodes. Because Marge is insane in this episode. Honestly, the stuff with her and Homer trying to organize a big party to win Lisa friends is a little crazy, but within the realm of reason. Marge worries about her daughter, and thinks that because Lisa isn’t “normal” she isn’t happy. That’s a normal thing. That’s something that I imagine all parents worry about. I was a kid with very few friends, and I’m sure my parents were worried at times. But then the episode gets insane, and Marge starts to cross the line. Because bribing a girl to be Lisa’s friend, and hiding that from her, is one of the craziest things that Marge has ever done. And they barely talk about it! Marge just cries and Lisa feels bad, absolving her of her guilt for doing one of the most twisted things I’ve ever seen a Simpsons character do! It’s just so weird, so unpleasant, and so irritating that it just gets swept away at the end. Sorry to end this week with this episode.
Take Away: Don’t pay kids to be your children’s friends!!! That’s insane!
“Pay Pal” was written by David H Steinberg and directed by Michael Polcino, 2014.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons